10 Top Cold Email Mistakes Sales Reps Make (and What To Do Instead)

A well-written cold email will do wonders for your business.

There's just one problem: writing one of these bad boys is hard. You have to come up with an interesting subject line, craft personalized copy, optimize your CTA…

It's a lot.

Fortunately, by fixing the most common cold email mistakes, you can help your message resonate with potential customers. So that's what we're going to do today.

In this ultimate guide, we'll identify common mistakes that salespeople make with their cold email outreach--and tell you what to do instead.

Let's go!

Is Cold Emailing Outreach Still a Good Strategy?

Before we talk about common cold email mistakes, let's address the elephant in the room: Is cold email even worth your time? It's a fair question.

Studies show that only 8.5% of cold emails receive a response. And everybody knows inbound marketing campaigns can generate high-quality leads while sales teams sleep. Plus, LinkedIn allows individual sales reps to easily connect with prospects on a personal level. So why are we bothering?

These things are all true, but they don't tell the full story. Most cold emails are poorly written and spammy, which is why very few of them garner attention. Inbound marketing takes a ton of time and effort to execute properly. And LinkedIn is a great tool, but has limitations.

The truth is, cold email marketing is still a viable strategy for most sales teams. If you do it right, it will help you build relationships with almost anyone. You can then turn these relationships into additional sales and propel your company forward.

At the end of the day, nothing beats a well-written email, sent directly to a qualified prospect's inbox. You just need to eliminate common cold email mistakes to find success.

When crafting B2B cold email campaigns, using a well-structured b2b cold email template can greatly enhance your chances of success. Or our AI Email Writer tool! Both are entirely free!

How Do Cold Email Mistakes Impact Sales Success?

As mentioned above, cold email is a great way to connect with prospects. Unfortunately, most sales reps make too many mistakes for this strategy to be effective, which leads to:

Low Deliverability Rates

Bad cold emails end up in spam folders. Send too many of them and inbox providers will develop a negative view of your domain and your deliverability rate will plummet. When this happens, you'll have a harder time reaching people via email—even if they're on your own email list!

Non-Existent Open Rates

Landing in a prospect's inbox is step one. Getting said prospect to open your cold email is step two. Sadly, bad cold emails rarely entice recipients to engage. If no one opens your messages, they'll never read your copy or click your link. 😔

Poor Quality Leads

Every once in a while, a bad cold email will beat the odds, end up in a prospect's inbox, and actually get read by its intended recipient. Someone call the Pope—you've just witnessed a miracle, right? Maybe not. Quality leads rarely respond to poor messages. Chances are, the positive response you've generated will result in a lame duck sales process.

Wasted Time

You've just sent your first email and you're excited. Maybe this prospect will be your first success with this strategy! If your message has any of the common mistakes we talk about in the next section, I wouldn't get your hopes up. Bad cold emails produce low response rates, and even lower sales. You need to correct them ASAP. If you don't, you'll only waste time.

10 Cold Email Mistakes (And How to Solve Them)

Are you ready to develop a cold email strategy? Great! Just make sure you don't make any of the following mistakes. Doing so will completely tank your efforts, guaranteed.

1. Emailing the Wrong Person

If you're in sales, you're used to dealing with gatekeepers.

When it comes to cold email, your recipient is the gatekeeper you need to cozy up to. Just make sure this person is actually who you think they are. The last thing you want to do is message John in Sales when you really wanted to message Joe in Marketing. No bueno.

Emailing the wrong person is a waste of time. It will also make you look like a spammer, which will harm your reputation—both with the company you're contacting and email providers.

What to Do Instead: First, forget about the "spray and pray" approach to cold email marketing, i.e., messaging random addresses and hoping one of them works out.

Second, make sure every lead you contact is a real person. Then double check to make sure they're the right person to email. (Note: you can learn a lot about potential prospects on social media sites. Use these resources to distinguish actual prospects from random addresses.)

To discover prospect emails, I suggest using an email finder tool like Hunter.io, Lusha, or UpLead. (For all the deets on the best email finders, check out this blog post.)

2. Writing a Long, Boring Email

I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess your name isn't Stephen King. It's probably not James Patterson, Dan Brown, or J.K. Rowling either.

So stop trying to turn your cold email messages into novels. They should get right to the point. If they don't, your recipients will hit the 'Delete' button, never to be heard from again.

I know you want to build trust by telling prospects about your company's many accolades. And you'd love to dazzle them with a long list of product features. Oh, and shouldn't you mention the other customers you've worked with in the past? Nope, you probably shouldn't…

What to Do Instead: You know the saying, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." Do you really want to bore a potential customer to death before you even get to know them? Of course not. So make sure your cold emails are short and sweet.

How short and sweet? Less than 200 words, though 100 to 150 words is ideal. This should be enough time to engage your prospects and entice them to click your CTA.

Remember, you aren't trying to make sales with cold emails. You're trying to start conversations and qualify prospects. This is best done with a short message that invites potential customers to learn more about you and your company via an external link.

3. Forgetting to Mention Benefits

Do your cold emails list features or explain benefits?

If you want to succeed, you need to spend way more time stressing benefits. Why? Because nobody cares about product features.

man in suit holding a card that says benefits cold email mistake guide

Which would you rather buy: a computer with 8-core CPU, 8 GB of unified memory, and a 256 GB SSD, or a computer that will let you easily attend Zoom meetings for work, surf the internet in your free time, and binge Netflix over holiday weekends?

Unless you're a computer nerd, you chose the second option. You don't care about CPU and unified memory and SSD. You care about what all that nonsense will enable you to do.

Your cold emails need to answer the question, "Why should prospects care?" The answer is because you address specific pain points and present a viable solution to them.

What to Do Instead: Don't tell prospects that your company can do XYZ. Tell them why doing XYZ actually matters. This is how you'll grab (and hold!) their attention.

Remember, cold email recipients don't know you. They don't care about your company or your products. They care about one thing and one thing only: whether you can help them or not. If your cold emails don't make this clear, you won't get many responses.

4. Sending Too Many Emails at Once

Can we get technical for a minute?

Sending too many emails at one time will harm deliverability rates. Email providers will see your high volume of messages and think you're spamming people. Once this happens, a percentage of your cold emails will fail to reach inboxes, killing your conversion rates.

Your cold email strategy will fall flat if your messages never reach their intended targets. Fortunately, there are a couple of things you can do to ensure high deliverability.

What to Do Instead: First, limit yourself to 200 cold emails a day. If you send more than this, you risk getting your account shut down by email providers.

If your email address is new and doesn't receive a lot of inbound messages, I suggest limiting your daily cold emails even more. And make sure you account for follow ups!

Let's pretend you've written a four-email sequence and use automation to send messages at predetermined intervals. In this case, you'd want to email a maximum of 50 new prospects a day. That way you never exceed your daily messages limit (because 50 x 4 = 200).

One of the best ways to ensure deliverability is to warm up your email. This will boost your email domain's reputation and increase open and reply rates.

For more information on email warming, read our full blog post on the topic.

5. Being Too Salesy in Your Initial Message

A cold email is a kind of sales email—but it shouldn't read like one! If your initial message is too salesy, you'll probably alienate prospects. After all, they didn't ask you to contact them.

Unfortunately, this mistake is extremely common. Salespeople often write things like:

Hi Adam,

I work for Company ABC and we have an awesome new product that I know you'll love. It does XYZ and our customers really love it. Can I call you sometime to talk more?



What's wrong with this email? It hasn't been personalized, which makes it feel like a generic message. (More on personalization below.) It automatically assumes the prospect cares about the product. And it doesn't address the prospect's pain points at all.

Basically, it's a sales rep-centric email that doesn't do anything for the prospect.

What to Do Instead: Always put your recipients first. How can you add value to their lives?

The best way is to research your prospects before you email them. Then address the pain points you uncover in the first message you send. Here's a quick example:

Hi Adam,

Is your team struggling to streamline sales workflows and boost productivity? Close CRM was designed for this exact purpose. Our platform gives sellers all the tools they need to automate processes and close more deals. Do you have 10 minutes to talk about this?



This email is all about Adam and a potential pain point he may have. As such, it's much more likely to receive a reply. Once that happens, "Adam the Lead" will turn into "Adam the Prospect."

6. Using the Wrong Subject Lines

Your email subject line is the most important element of your entire cold email.

Think about it: if your subject line sucks, no one will open your email. And if no one opens your email, they'll never read your sales message or click your CTA.

You have to hook potential customers with a killer subject line, or your entire cold email strategy will fail—no matter how in-depth and amazing said strategy may be.

What to Do Instead: Writing awesome subject lines is an art. But you don't have to study with a Himalayan monk to learn it. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Keep it Short: 61.9% of emails are opened and read on mobile devices. You may have noticed, most mobile devices have smaller screens than computers, which means subject lines get truncated earlier. So, keep subject lines below 60 characters.
  • Personalize: Try adding the recipient's name to your subject lines. This isn't a full-proof strategy. But studies show that it can boost open rates. Like every other aspect of email marketing, test this tactic to see if it works for your sales team.
  • Be Honest: Repeat after me, "I will never lie in my email subject line." This is a terrible way to start a relationship with a potential customer. How will they ever trust you again? Don't try to trick people into opening your messages by putting "Re:" or "FWD:" in the subject line. (Unless it really is a forward!) Instead, ensure the subject line matches the content of your email.

If you want to optimize your subject lines effortlessly and enhance your email open rates, consider using Close's Email Subject Line Generator (AI-tool). This advanced tool employs the latest artificial intelligence techniques to craft attention-grabbing subject lines that will entice recipients to open your cold emails. Give it a try and witness the difference it makes in your email outreach success!

7. Forgetting to Include a CTA

You've written an amazing subject line to entice prospects to open your email. You crafted engaging body copy that's sure to pique their interest. Now what?

It's time for the call-to-action, my friend, better known as a CTA!

Your CTA is where you tell prospects what to do next. Maybe you want them to reply to your message, schedule a call, or click a link to download a free white paper. Whatever it is, make sure you tell them. If you don't, they probably won't do anything at all.

What to Do Instead: Every cold email needs a CTA. Make sure your messages have one before clicking the 'Send' button. That way your efforts aren't wasted.

Also, don't overload prospects with multiple CTAs per email. You might think it makes sense to give them options, but they're more likely to do absolutely nothing. Instead, give prospects a single CTA that's easy to understand and act upon.

Note: Your CTA and email signature are different. It's okay to craft a compelling CTA and include links in your email signature, as long as they don't distract prospects from your main goal: getting people to click your CTA and take the next step in your sales process.

8. Not Personalizing Your Email Template

There's no ifs, ands, or buts about it: personalized emails are better than generic ones.

If you want your cold email strategy to succeed, you need to research your prospects and then use that information to build relationships with them via your initial email.

What to Do Instead: Don't worry, personalizing emails isn't difficult. It will take time, but your extra effort will be rewarded in the form of better metrics and more sales. Here's how to do it:

  • Research: Get to know your prospects. Study their LinkedIn profiles. Read their company's blog. Look for the challenges they struggle with on a daily basis.
  • Evaluate: Now that you know about your prospects, ask yourself, "How can my company's products and/or services help them?" This is so important!
  • Write: Personalize your email templates. Include the person's name. Throw in their company name for good measure. Then mention the specific pain point they deal with and how your products/services can solve it. BOOM! Email, personalized.

9. Not Following Up

How many emails are in your cold email campaign. If the answer is less than five, you probably won't connect with many prospects. Studies show that 60% of customers say "no" four times before they say "yes." In other words, your follow-up emails are essential.

Of course, you don't have to follow-up via email. You can connect with prospects on LinkedIn, too. But thanks to automation, email follow-up is uber convenient. Let's talk more about that…

What to Do Instead: Contact prospects multiple times. They probably won't get back to you after one cold email. That's okay. Send another one. And another. And another.

Try sending follow-up messages at different times of the day, too. If you sent your initial email at 3 pm on Thursday, for instance, try sending a follow-up at 10am on Tuesday. If that doesn't work, try sending a third message at 12 pm on Friday. Make sense?

After a while, you'll learn the best times to send cold emails and can start there.

Now, you're probably wondering how to streamline the follow-up process. I don't blame you. Imagine how tedious it would be to manually send these messages, track individual responses, and send follow-up based on this information. That sounds terrible!

There's a better way. Use an automation tool to handle these tasks for you. There are tons of email marketing platforms that can do it, but you're in sales, so I recommend using a quality CRM with email marketing capabilities. This will give you the best of both worlds.

Take Close, for example. Our platform makes it easy to contact prospects via email, phone, or text. Once you do, you can easily track them in your pipeline and boost sales. Win!

Wondering how to integrate your CRM with your sales email setup? Explore our guide to technical email setup to streamline customer interactions and data management.

10. Forgetting to Optimize Your Approach

You've worked hard to build a cold email strategy for your company. I just have one question for you: is it working? You won't know until you study your metrics.

You won't succeed with every cold email tactic under the sun. Why? Because you serve a unique audience. Some of the tips, tricks, and best practices you read about online will fall flat. When they do, you need to eliminate them from your sales playbook.

What to Do Instead: Analyze your approach to cold email on a regular basis. Are you contacting the right leads? Are your messages getting opened? Are your CTAs getting clicked? Are you generating real customers, or bogging yourself down with tire kickers?

If your messages aren't getting opened, you probably need to work on your email subject lines. If your CTAs aren't getting clicked, you probably need to work on your body copy. You may need to contact better leads or personalize your messages more as well.

Don't be afraid to experiment with your cold emails. Be open to new ideas and try new tactics. Then evaluate the results to see if said ideas and tactics are worth using. That's how you win.

3 Stellar Cold Email Examples

I've told you what not to do in your cold emails. But you might be wondering, "What does a stellar cold email actually look like?" Here are a few examples to inspire you:

The "Competitor" Approach

When using the "Competitor" approach, simply ask prospects if they enjoy using a competitor's product or service. Nathan Barry, CEO of ConvertKit, used to do this really well:

email mistakes example from Mailchimp

This message is short and sweet, addresses a potential pain point, and builds credibility by mentioning other customers. The only thing I would suggest is adding a more specific CTA.

The "Event" Approach

When using the "Event" approach, simply reference a popular event or happening in your industry. Then mention how the prospect can use your product/service to take full advantage of the opportunity. That's what Brian Anderson did when he cold emailed Charlie Liang.

Hi Charlie,

I know you'll be spending big bucks at the Marketo Summit next month (unless Jon gets you a crazy discount).

I wanted to see if we could help you convert more of that investment into pipeline, by boosting the number of leads that convert into post-event meetings.

To quote your own blog post, poor event follow-up can result in S$$$ of pipeline being left on the table in your best-case scenario, you're only reaching 20% of your leads post-event.

Our app reduces the need for "the follow-up dance" (as you put it) by directly scheduling a meeting into the calendar of your most-engaged prospects (and a hand-picked salesperson), all while on the event floor.

It's a different approach, but helps filter-out non-leads at the booth. prioritizes your sales team's efforts post-event, and saves your guys from "the dance" with unqualified prospects.

Happy to give you a 15 minute overview if you're interested.

This message is much longer than the one above, but it still clocks in at under 200 words. It also mentions a potential pain point, is highly personalized, and includes a clear CTA.

The "Data" Approach

When using the "Data" approach, simply share valuable information with your prospect—especially if the data was uncovered using your product or service:

email mistake example fullstory

In this example, Trey from Fullstory cold emailed Kyle from Proposify. You'll notice that Trey didn't write much. Instead, he shot a video of himself using Fullstory to analyze the Proposify website. He then shared the insights that Fullstory uncovered. Brilliant!

This cold email works because it gives undeniable proof of the product Trey sells. It also creates reciprocity by giving the recipient something incredibly valuable for free.

Win With Cold Email

Cold email outreach will remain a viable sales strategy in 2023. You just have to learn how to do it the right way. Start by eliminating the mistakes we talked about above. Once you do, you'll be able to design lead generation campaigns that produce results.

You know what else will help? A quality CRM software like Close.

With Close, you can create cold email marketing campaigns, track interactions, schedule follow-up messages, and more—all from one user-friendly dashboard.

Start your free 14-day trial of Close today to see if it's the right cold email tool for you!

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